Templecombe by Paul Blowfield

Too much information. Do we need so many announcements and warning signs on our railways?

Published 02 July 2013

Minister says that less information is better!

Do we need to know that heaters get hot and that it is dangerous to ride on the outside of a train? Today’s Health & Safety culture has been booming over the last decade or so and has spawned many notices that seem to be completely superfluous.

Stating the blindingly obvious!

The Greater Anglia run station at Ely has long had notices by heaters in waiting rooms saying that they are hot. Southern Class 377 trains carry a warning saying that it is dangerous to ride on the outside of a train.

Why do we, or staff, also need to know that couplers are heated, passengers do not need to know and presumably staff are trained about this.

Yellow lines

And why does a station line Baldock not have yellow lines on its platforms where trains pass at high speed several times an hour when others have unsightly yellow ‘box junction’ type hatched areas such as at Northallerton and Templecombe stations?

The latest curious safety handywork is at Templecombe station where the platform has been painted like a road box junction with a criss-cross yellow pattern recently applied. Why?

We all by now, know that you are not allowed to smoke on trains or stations yet we are constantly reminded. We are also reminded that due to today’s inclement weather to take care as surfaces may be slippery. If the risk is so bad, why not do something about it! It is also annoying when travelling in a ‘Quiet coach’ to be bombarded with announcements…….

Finally, have a look at Island Line platforms on the Isle of Wight. Shanklin and Lake stations have one platform which has been numbered. It is not as though there is a choice, so why waste money signing these stations. Or is it a Franchise commitment dictated by the Department for Transport?

Does anybody take notice of the ‘Beware of Trains’ signs, especially in a train depot when everyone should be aware of the risks.

What is a complete stop?

One particularly irritating announcement is when train managers, guards or drivers announce that the doors will not be opened until we have come to a complete stop. What is a complete stop as the train is either moving or not and there can be no in-between status!

Quieter travelling with First Great Western

So we should all salute the First Great Western (FGW) announcement that they have now reduced the quantity of announcements they make. This decision follows several months of reviewing what is needed and what is merely background noise for passengers.

FGW carried out some research earlier this year and the outcome was that maybe 40% of the content was not regarded as useful or relevant to passengers. This suggests that Transport Minister Norman Baker’s urging train operators to curb 'excessive' announcements is what passengers want. They may also hope that other train companies follow FGW’s example. Their new Announcement Guide for employees has just been implemented.

They said:

FGW General Manager West, David Crome said:

“Some of the things we do not need to say anymore, such as announcements informing people they cannot smoke on a service, or informing customers where Standard and First Class seating is.

“We have been through the announcement guide to rid it of all the tosh – the redundant, the irrelevant and the repetitive.”

Having conducted qualitative research FGW found that while passengers were not necessarily annoyed by the announcements they heard, at least half had psychologically trained themselves to tune out to all announcements.

One of the first to go will be “Mind the Gap” at every station stop, only to be said when it is appropriate at individual stations where the gap is greater than normal. Other announcements to be dropped include the scheduled arrival time at the final destination and “Change here for connecting services to….”

“When it comes to announcements only 18% is the words, while 82% is the tone of the announcement.”

It’s not all over though…

Some announcements will still be made but containing more relevant information on departure times and platform numbers rather than each and every connecting service. The tone of announcements will also change reflecting the research findings.

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